From the onset of our involvement with LawForMe, it was clear that this was a project of crucial importance, one that had the scope to incorporate design innovation. As designers, it has been a joy to watch and contribute to this process of making laws easier and universally accessible.
Despite the technological revolution, it’s astonishing to see how little the legal system of India has adapted to the change. When it comes to communicating a basic understanding of the legal framework to the average citizen, it falls shamefully short.
The crux of our work with LawForMe revolved around conceptualizing and executing the visual component of the website. We realized that explaining the information through a visual medium would greatly improve both people’s understanding, as well as their level of interest. We decided to focus on two major elements – illustrated scenarios for legal advice/understanding and the overall user interface of the website.
Most people aren’t aware of the planning that goes into illustration even before the pencil touches paper. For example, even the general theme and style of the visuals we finally chose required a strategic thought process. The first instinct would be to simply draw figures of people engaging in various situations in the most realistic way possible. However, after a lot of brainstorming and getting opinions on test drafts, we realized that this was problematic. Particular figures seemed to consistently make certain people feel excluded – some because they felt only a certain class as portrayed, while others felt that gender was disproportionately represented.
So we tried out different illustration styles including human figures, stylized human figures, animal figures and other non human figures. We reached out to several people to understand their reactions to each. We asked them which ones they liked instinctively (as in, which they’d click first), which illustration styles they would chose to depict a real life scenario and finally, how they would rate the figures on the basis of fun, seriousness, trust and most importantly, in their ability to communicate.
We experimented with the idea of creating depersonalized (almost non-human) figures, and paradoxical as it may sound, this helped in making the illustrations easier to identify with! Not only do these figures have a universal appeal, they can also be easily recreated.
After the selection of the illustration style, we started looking at ways to emote and present them. As we created the first version of the characters to illustrate the laws, we realised that the characters were too simple to cover different scenarios. We needed to add more features and more variation in shapes to be able to effectively communicate something as complex as a law! Another issue was the depiction of gender. Since our characters were sexless and were not wearing clothes, we tried an approach by adding specific shapes to male and female characters for the website.
It was important that the illustration style is consistent across the website. We have given special attention to draw objects which were to be depicted in the flowchart and tips & tricks sections. They had to follow the illustration style.
We showed the first version of the illustrated scenarios to a small focus group to see if the reaction of the potential users for the illustration – to check if we were on the right path! We needed to know if they could see things the way we wanted them to see. Most people liked the style at the first glance and many felt it had an international feel to it. To our relief, we discovered that these illustrations were doing their job of communicating complex laws in an easy manner. With this sense of optimism and confidence, we went ahead and completed the illustrations for all the laws and legal processes (which were shown as flowcharts).
Initial reactions to our website and the illustrations have been good. We are looking forward to continuing this process, learning and improving as time goes by. Please send us your feedback and suggestions. We will be happy to hear from you!